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Archives for : Poetry

Remembering Smita Patil – Poem by Deepti Naval

by- Deepti Naval

Sharing a moment with Smita . . . at Band Stand on a monsoon day . . .

Always on the run
Chasing our dreams
We met each time –

At baggage claims
VIP lounges
Check- in counters

Stood a while together
Among gaping crowds
Spoke, unspoken words

Yearning to share
Yet afraid, afraid
Of ourselves

All around us
People cheering, leering
And we, like spectacles
Amidst all the madness

Trying to live a moment
Of truth
A glance, a touch
A feeling to hold on to
And move on…

The last time we sat together
Waiting for a flight
I remember I’d said,

‘There must be another way
Of living this life!’

For a long time
You remained silent


Without blinking
Without turning

‘There isn’t’

You are gone, and
I’m still running…

Still trying
To prove you wrong . . .


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He Sang


He sang. Or he sat. Or he slept. Or he danced. Or he sang and danced. When he sang the whole village would come out of their homes. When he danced too! Some called him Lal Singh, some called him Gan Singh. Some said that he was from Comilla and had been on his way to Calcutta, but changed his mind and settled down on this abandoned bench instead. Nobody really knew.

When I was a toddler I would crawl up to him to listen to these amazing melodies. As I grew older I began to understand his songs, the message of hope and joy, of the wonder, beauty and goodness of all things. A small school had come up in the vicinity which I was forced to attend. I learnt to count and to my little eyes he lookeda hundred years old.

One day I heard a commotion that was raucous and appalling to my ears. I hid behind a tree and watched a man hit Lal Singh. There were others shouting and pointing fingers at him. “Our wome’n are being kidnapped and raped and you are singing these stupid, happy songs? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? All of us are mourning, only you are laughing! Lal Singh continued to sing. He hit him again and again until Lal Singh fell off the bench. This did not stop Lal Singh from singing. The man who was hitting Lal Singh was known as Dada Singh. I remember shrieking loudly when he touched me harshly and inappropriately a few years ago.

A few days later they returned to beat him again. Our men are dying in the war but you carry on with your happy singing and dancing as though nothing has happened? How dare you! We are poor and jobless and exploited but you continue to dance as if this is paradise. Will you stop! Pull his tongue out, screamed Dada Singh, infuriated.

That was the last we heard of him. He soon disappeared.

Today, I am in Gondiya, near Nagpur making a documentary on the Gond tribals, their caves, Darekasa and Kachargadh; their culture, religion and dress code. It is after midnight and I am listening to an old man singing songs that make the most creative use of cuss words. Amazing and funny at the same time! He is just making them up on the spot, like this one –
Gangu ga…………….
Moreet ka mutli……


I walked up to him with some money in my hand. Lal Singh!



Words (Fiction): Jyotee

Edits: Shweta Swaminathan

Photograph: Mayank Austen Soofi

Jyotee is an artist and a writer living in Mumbai.

He Sang

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India – The first #Aadhaar linked poem in the world- Bullet Train



By Aadhar No: 9876 5432 1001

The Shinkensan Model accelerates to
217 miles an hour, cutting journey time
to 3 hours from Ahmedabad to Mumbai.
Mukesh sings “ Meri gaadi hai japaani”
in a soulful studio radio.
Born post-war, Shinso Abe smiles
and waves and hugs like Hirohito.

This Bullet Train is the Brahmaasthra of the epics.
Or, the Narayanasthra or the Rama Bana.
Sometimes, it is a Mohanasthra that drugs
billions of people putting them in a daze.

There is another Bullet Train.
A 7.65 Calibre Make in India model
that passes through stations with
strange names like Kalburgi South
Pansare West and Dhabolkar Central
Its destination set in Bangalore
where it rockets through a pulsating heart.

This train now will pass through
Under skin arteries and veins and nerves
Tunneling through bone marrow and muscles
Till it comes to rest on a magnificent spine bridge,
perched like a toy train in a full moon night
till the slightest breeze causes the compartments
to topple into a depthless soul, one by one.

Ra Sh is a poet from Kerala

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Remembering Begum Akhtar Mallika-e-Ghazal (Queen of Ghazal) on her 103rd Birthday

Begum Akhtar was influenced by the music of Chandra Bai, a theatre artist, at a very young age. She then went on to train under Sarangi exponent Ustad Imdad Khan. It is Begum Akhtar’s 103rd birthday today and Google has dedicated a Google doodle in her memory.

Begum Akhtar's 103rd Birthday: Google Celebrates With A Doodle

Begum Akhtar 103rd Birthday: She was renowned for her music in the genres of Ghazals, Thumris and Dadra.

NEW DELHI:  Google today celebrates Begum Akhtar’s anniversary with a doodle that marks the immense contribution she made towards Hindustani classical music. The doodle very aptly shows Begum Akhtar playing sitar. The doodle is coloured in the shades of yellow, blue and pink.She was among the earliest female voices to stage public performances and her first disc was released by the Megaphone Record Company.

For Begum Akhtar, mistress of melancholy, pain remained a part of her art

Remembering Begum Akhtar


While Begum Akhtar’s music was the most defining aspect of her personality, her music in turn was defined by her life’s journey, in a sense making her life and music inseparable. A journey that began in a salon in Lucknow as a young teenager – set up by her mother Mushtari bai, also a tawaif – Akhtar in a short span became an artiste of calibre. Only the very distinguished were allowed access to her mehfils. She became popular across north India through a number of 78-rpm recordings released under the Megaphone label. At a very young age, she went through many creative phases in her career including acting in theatre in the 1920s in Calcutta, mostly as a ‘vamp’ (“in a black velvet Western dress and smoking a cigarette with a long black holder”), a short stint in films where she sang and acted (remembered mostly only for a thumri she sang in Satyajit Ray‘s Jalsaghar). In her quest to be socially accepted, and for the married life of a “mainstream homemaker”, she became an “acchiammi” and then went on to be a begum who ruled the world of ghazal gayaki for decades.

Through all of these transitions, pain and sadness remained a part of her life. What started with a difficult childhood in later years became a habit, so much so her admirers recollect she would feel restless without the sadness. Perhaps this also explains the choice of poetry-through-ghazal as her chosen form of musical expression. She gave this form a new voice, a musicality unique to her, only to be followed by several others in later years. Eminent Urdu poets of her day-Jigar Moradabadi, Kaifi Azmi and Shakeel Badayuni-wrote for her and she shared close friendships with several of them. Although her marriage to the well known barrister Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi brought many restrictions to her public singing, it did on the other hand bring her closer to Urdu poetry, owing partly to his scholarship.

Begum Akhtar



Born Akhtari Bai Faizabadi, Begum Akhtar came to a certain section of Hindustani classical music, with her raspy voice and formidable vocal range. She dabbled in Ghazal, Dadra and Thumri genres.

Initially trained under the renowned sarangi exponent Ustad Imdad Khan and later under Ata Mohammed Khan, Begum Akhtar went on to win the moniker ‘Mallika-e-Ghazal’. She was posthumously awarded the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the government of India. The ‘Queen of Ghazals’ may have passed away over four decades ago, but she continues to rule hearts.


Begum Akhtar  was an outstanding Indian singer of Ghazal, Dadra, and Thumri. She had earned the title of Malika-e-Ghazal (Queen of Ghazals). The year 2014 was devoted and  observed as her anniversary year.

Begum Akhtar real name Akhtari Bai Faizabadi was born in Bada Darwaza in Bhadarsa Bharatkund in Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh on October 7,1914 and breathed her last on October 30, 1974 at the age of 60 years.

For her rare contribution in the field of  music and singing, she received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for vocal music, and was awarded Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan (posthumously) by Government of India. Her modulation of voice, matchless singing  style especially of Urdu Ghazals of most reputed poets made her the most admirable singer.

Tough Training


Ms Akhtar was barely seven when she was captivated by the music of Chandra Bai, an artist attached to a touring theatre group. However, at her uncle’s insistence she was sent to train under Ustad Imdad Khan, the great Sarangi exponent from Patna (Bihar) and later under Ata Mohammad Khan of Patiala (Punjab). Later, she travelled to Calcutta (now Kolkata in West Bengal) with her mother and learnt music from classical stalwarts like Mohammad Khan, Abdul Waheed Khan of Lahore and finally she became the disciple of Ustad Jhande Khan.


Her first public performance was at the tender age of fifteen. The famous poetess, Sarojini Naidu, appreciated her singing during a concert which was organised in the aid of victims of a Bihar earthquake of 1934. This encouraged her to continue singing ghazals with more enthusiasm. She cut her first disc for then famous  Megaphone Record Company. A number of gramophone records were released carrying her ghazals, Dadra, Thumris which instantly shot her into limelight and her popularity graph too sharply shot up.

Begum Akhtar’s good looks and sensitive voice made her to jump into a film career in her early years. When she heard great musicians like Gauhar Jan and Malak Jan, she decided to forsake the glamour of the film world for a career in Indian classical music. Her supreme artistry in light classical music had its deep roots in pure classicism. She chose her repertoire in primarily classical modes: a variety of raags, ranging from simple to complex. After the advent of talkie era in India, Beghum Akhtar acted in a few Hindi movies in thirties. East India Film Company of Calcutta ( Kolkata) approached her to act in “King for a Day” (alias Ek Din Ka Badshah) and famous Nal Damayanti in 1933.

A rare feature was that she sang her songs herself in all her films. She continued acting for  some years only. Subsequently, Begum Akhtar moved back to Lucknow where she was approached by the famous producer-director Mehboob Khan, as a result of which she acted in “Roti” which was released in 1942 and its music was composed by maestro Anil Biswas. “Roti” contained  her ghazals which was one of the attractions of this poppular movie. All her film ghazals are available on Megaphone gramophone records. Beghum Akhtar, later on left and returned to Lucknow.

In 1945, Akhtaribai married a Barrister, Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi, and became known as Begum Akhtar. However, after marriage, due to her husband’s restrictions, she could not sing for almost five years and subsequently, she fell ill, that is when her return to music was prescribed as a befitting remedy, and it was only in 1949 that she returned to the music world. She sang three ghazals and a Dadra at Lucknow Radio Station. She wept afterwards and returned to singing in concerts, a practice that lasted until her death!

Her voice matured with time, adding richness and depth. She sang ghazals and other light classical pieces, singing them in her inimitable style. She has nearly four hundred songs to her credit and  was a regular performer on All India Radio. She usually composed her own ghazals and most of her compositions were raag based.
Urdu being the official language of Jammu and Kashmir, Begum Akhtar’s Ghazals and songs are frequently broadcasted on pressing public demands. She paid visits to this part of the country and regaled the audience with her sweet song and melodious Ghazals.

During her last concert in Ahmedabad she raised the pitch of her voice as she felt that her singing had not been as good as she had wanted it to be and she felt unwell. The additional demand and stress that she put herself under resulted in her falling ill and was rushed to the hospital.
She died on October 30, 1974 in the arms of Nilam Gamadia, her friend, who invited her to Ahmedabad, which has become her final performance. But Begum Akhtar is still alive in the hearts of lakhs of fans for her matchless style of singing especially the Ghazals, Dadra and Thumri.

In her quest to be socially accepted, and for the married life of a “mainstream homemaker”, she became an “acchi ammi” and then went on to be a begum who ruled the world of ghazal gayaki for decades.

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Mumbai Stampede- Pain and poetry

Image result for Mumbai Stampede- Dying woman molested on bridge by bystander
THE tragic stampede at Elphinstone station has shocked every citizen of this city and beyond. Several have even shared their stories of the Parel-Elphinstone area. Like Indian Foreign Services officer Devyani Khobragade, who studied medicine at the KEM college here from 19911997 and took the train to college daily. She has penned a few verses show her anger and pain.
She writes:
Pile of files (read life)
at footbridge
Six years of my life
I ran Down your bridge
To catch the fleeing local train
A drop in the sea of humanity,
Never drowned but Like so many today
In the stampede of human panic?
Or overburden ?
You Elphinstone railway station?
Never aware that mine could be Among the littered limbs
Or torn clothes or broken phones
Scattered one wet day on
Astounded steps to nowhere.
That, long before a slipped step
Triggers an avalanche of death,
An orgy of neglect oozed out of
Everyone who could care
But did nothing.
That long after broken ribs
Punctured breaths out of lives
And heartbeats stopped under Piles of falling bodies
Focus will be not on
Mending but blame.
On streets anger will spill
Debates will thunder on
TV Raising TRPs and forgetting
Lives that mattered,
over Deaths that shouldn’t be.
When I sprinted across
In and out of you,Elphinstone
Never I cared that
No one in high offices cared
To look after you
And the swelling human ocean
Raging through your sagging seams
While those in high offices
Glided over time which
Waded through dusty files
On your upkeep,
Just as termite gnaws through life.
Today, out of that pile of Human morass
I stand and think
How naive I was all those years
Not to think of life
Or actually of my death
Through neglect of your servants
Pretending to be my masters.
source- Mumbai Mirror

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Cue, a Legend: Tom Alter On Short Films, Theatre & Urdu

There are artists who take time to understand new media – sometimes even resist it. And then, there is Sir Tom Alter.
There are artists who take time to understand new media – sometimes even resist it. And then, there is Sir Tom Alter. (Photo Courtesy: Monica Dawar)

(The following piece is being republished to mark actor and writer Tom Alter’s death on 30 September 2017 at the age of 67. It was originally published on 14 July 2017.)

There are artists who take time to understand new media – sometimes even resist it. And then, there is Sir Tom Alter.

As I watch him perform a scene for an upcoming short film outdoors, under the May sun, I can’t help but wonder at how passionate the 67-year-old is. Right on time for the shoot, even when the rest of the cast trickles in much later, Alter is professionalism personified.

He has done five short films in the last six months.

A lot of young people are making short films now. They choose unique subjects and I love the scripts and stories that are coming my way.

Tom Alter

He has done five short films in the last six months.
He has done five short films in the last six months. (Photo Courtesy: Jashn-e-Maazi)

Contrary to popular belief that short films are like ‘popcorn’ to full length movies, he says,

Each minute of a short film is more significant than that of a full length feature film. You have to put in more finesse in each shot. Also, one can let go of minor things in a longer film, but here you must pay attention to every detail.

Bhargav Saikia, filmmaker and founder, Lorien Motion Pictures, recently cast Alter and Shernaz Patel in his short film, The Black Cat, based on Ruskin Bond’s short story by the same name.

Ruskin Bond generously gave me the permission to adapt his story and Tom Alter, Bond’s real life friend, was the natural choice to essay the author’s character. Alter’s meticulously detailed and entertaining performance is one of the major highlights of the film.

Bhargav Saikia

2017 has been a dream run for the theatre veteran.
2017 has been a dream run for the theatre veteran. (Photo Courtesy: Jashn-e-Maazi)

Saikia, incidentally, made the critically acclaimed Kaafiron Ki Namaaz. Here’s a link to the film:

He fondly remembers the moment when Alter called Ruskin Bond on his mobile phone on the first day of shoot in Bhimtal.

Mr Alter wanted to hum a few songs in the film which were Ruskin Bond’s favourites, and they spoke about those songs over the phone.


2017 has been a dream run for the theatre veteran. He was able to realise Jashn-e-Maazi, a theatre extravaganza he had been creating for over 10 years.

It had been my dream for a decade. The idea was to cover history through events and personalities that have impacted the world. The 17 days of the festival was pure bliss – we began with Mahabharata and ended with Gandhiji.

Tom Alter

Alter was able to realise Jashn-e-Maazi, a theatre extravaganza he had been creating for over 10 years.
Alter was able to realise Jashn-e-Maazi, a theatre extravaganza he had been creating for over 10 years. (Photo Courtesy: Jashn-e-Maazi)

A particularly interesting play was Dozakhnama, based on a Bengali novel of the same name, where Ghalib and Manto talk to each other from beyond the grave. While one hopes there were more numbers in the audience, Alter says he had the best team of people working behind the scenes and on stage for his dream project.

A recent play, one third of which he performed in Jashn-e-Maazi, was met with resounding success in Delhi. Based on the life of the late psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion, The Becoming Room sees Alter enact both Bion and his father’s role.

It’s a challenging script because you get the chance to see a great mind think and talk about the 20th century.

Millennials and Technology in the World of Theatre

Working through the years that have seen massive transformation in terms of technology, has any of it come in the way of acting for a senior actor like him? He says ‘no’ quite simply.

I still don’t carry a phone. I don’t know how marketing and the internet works in terms of short films. For actors, I think nothing has changed. We act.

“For actors, I think nothing has changed. We act,” says Alter.
“For actors, I think nothing has changed. We act,” says Alter. (Photo Courtesy: Monica Dawar)

As we discuss millennials and their equation with theatre, Alter sounds most positive.

At Jashn-e-Maazi and at the plays I do, more than half of the audience is young. Theatre lovers come in all ages. Truth be told, they never really quit watching it.

He also refutes that the language of Urdu – his forever muse – is not finding takers. The legendary artist puts it in words that may have sounded even more romantic in the language itself:

Urdu is not dying and if it is, I would love to have such a magnificent death.

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In this village, dalits sing Ambedkar garba

Ashish Chauhan| TNN | 
AHMEDABAD: `E rudi eni lekhan ni shu vaat, ena rang roop chhe namna re, Ambedkar laine kalam ne haath betha kayda ghadva re'(O beautiful, what I say about his writing and his delicate looks.

Ambedkar took pen in his hand and started framing laws.) This is a garba song adopted by dalits in Rampura village of Ahmedabad district, after they were denied entry to Navratri celebrations by upper castes.

Folk songs which praise Goddess Amba have been replaced by Ambedkar garba songs in Rampura village of Detroj talukasome 20km away from Viramgam town. The preparation of garba starts in the small hamlet, which has a population of around 2,300 including 300-odd dalits, after dalit workers return home af ter the day’s work. Women and men together sweep a chowk in `Dalit Mohalla’ and start preparation for Ambedkar Aarti which hails Dr B R Ambedkar’s contributions to the welfare of deprived communities.

Soon after the Ambedkar Aarti, dalit community members of Rampura and surrounding villages start dancing on garba songs praising Ambedkar and the Constitution.

The tradition was star ted by Kanu Sumesara, a contractor of marriage decorations, after dalits were barred from taking part in common garba celebrations by upper caste Hindus including brahmins, patels and darbars.

Kunvarji Thakor, sarpanch of the village, and whose family has held the seat for 17 years, said, “Dalits, Patels, Thakors, Mehtas and other communities hold garba in their own mohallas (areas) only . We do not stop them (dalits) from participating. It is their choice.”

Sumesara, organiser of the event, had picked up a prayer and garba songs on Ambedkar from internet channels. “They (upper caste Hindus) were not allowing us entry to their garba. We were just allowed to watch from a distance. If they cannot allow us to praise their gods, so why should we not praise our godDr Babasaheb,” Sumesara asked.

Sumesara also spreads awareness about dalit community’s rights given by the Constitution in between the garba event. The sessions are called `Lhani’ (gift for the people who play garba)

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तुम #भारतीय बनने पर अड़े रहना !

वो तुम्हे #गौमूत्र पर ले जाने की कोशिश करेगें, पर तुम #पेट्रोल पर अड़े रहना !!
वो तुम्हे #हिन्दू_मुस्लिम पर ले जाने की कोशिश करेगें, तुम #जॉब_गैस_राशन पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #मंदिर बनाने की बात करेगें, तुम #हॉस्पिटल पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #स्टैचू बनाने को सही साबित करेंगें, तुम #स्कूल बनवाने पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #दल की बात करेंगे, तुम #दाल के दाम पर अड़े रहना !!
वो कहेंगें #New_India बनायेंगे, तुम #अच्छे_दिन की डिलीवरी पर अड़े रहना !!
वो तुम्हें #जय_हिंद के नारों में उलझायेगें, तुम #हिन्द के वासियों के #वेलफ़ेयर पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #कश्मीर की बात करेंगे, तुम बढ़ती #कीमतों की बात पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #मदरसों की बात करेगें, तुम #किसानों की बात पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #मन_की_बात करेगें, तुम #काले_धन की बात पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #गौशाला खोलने की बात करेगें, तुम बच्चों के #पाठशाला पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #टैंक लगाने की बात करेगें, तुम अपने टैंक में #पानी की सप्लाई पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #हिंदू_मुस्लीम की बात करेगे मगर तुम #भारतीय बनने पर अड़े रहना !!
By -मिर्ज़ा

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Rage Against the Dying of the Light #GauriLankesh

Poetry flowed like blood and tears -and “a waterfall of love” -on social media and at a rally in Bengaluru earlier this week to protest the murder of Gauri Lankesh

I start, with a parched nib, What do martyrs think of in those final moments when fascists push them into well-planned caskets?This is how Write a Poem by Abul Kalam Azad begins. Azad -named after the freedom fighter Maulana -calls himself “a poet of Indian origin living in Japan“. He has never met the slain journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh. But Gauri had contacted him after he wrote a poem about the deaths of children in Gorakhpur and told him that she would trans late it into Kannada and publish it in her tabloid.

“Tonight, my poem lost one of its tongues. And so did this world. This night is ours to fight now. To grieve and to resist,“ he wrote in a Facebook post at 10.55 pm on September 5, three hours after Gauri was shot dead out side her residence in Bengaluru. It took him six more days and several torn sheets, real and metaphoric, to write Write a Poem, which is about Gauri looking over his shoulder, urging him to put pen to paper. “Language knocks in vain at the doors of the departed one… I run, far from alphabets… I weep, with clasped teeth, into her stretched palms She whispers again before walk ing afar `Write a poem.’“ Amid abuse and the usual whataboutery that follows a crisis these days, social media -Facebook, Twitter, You Tube -has been awash with poetry of all kinds to mark the murder of Gauri: from micropoetry to performance poetry. Writers range from Gauri’s friends to people who did not know her personally at all.

“It is the spontaneous overflow of emotions,“ says Kannada playwright and thinker Chandrashekar Patil, better known as Champa. He read out in Kannada, Eng lish and Hindi one of his poems Question-Answer in hon our of Gauri at the protest rally. “It was a crime against humanity, so naturally everyone felt the need to express it. Whether they knew Gauri or not, everyone felt pain at such a ghastly killing. Only poetry can express it,“ he told ET Magazine.

The poetry for Gauri has come from all sections of soci ety, from the empowered as well as the disenfranchised.

“Her death is being seen as an onslaught on the freedom of expression. So protesters are finding a new form of ex pression, which is poetry,“ says poet-playwright KY Narayanaswamy, who wrote the theme song for the rally.

“Protest poetry has a long history. Time has now come for it in India. We will see a flood of such poetry every time something happens to shake this nation.“

His poem, translated from Kannada, goes: “Gauri is the song of our heart can you kill it? It is a waterfall of love Can you stop it? Can you win people’s support with hate? Can you build a nation by hunting lives?“ This thought has found echo in all parts of the country.

“Some deaths are like rituals No one even remembers the dates Some deaths are remembered forever To haunt you even in your sleep… We all know the bullets have got our names under this regime Isn’t it time we sang our kind of anarchy?“ asks Akhu Chingangbam, al ternative folk-band artist and songwriter from Imphal.

Bullet Who?

Poet Mamta Sagar, Gauri’s childhood friend and neighbour till the end, had gone to Chennai for a human rights conference on the night of September 5. She was still reeling from the news when Vasu Dixit of folk-fusion band Swarathma called her and asked: “Can you give us a poem to sing as a tribute to Gauri?“ Says Sagar: “I was in no shape to write anything. I couldn’t eat or sleep the whole night. The next morning I went to get breakfast and my friend there said, you must write. I normally take months to write a poem. That day, I pushed my breakfast aside, sat down, wrote a poem and sent it off. I still don’t know how I wrote it.“

The poem, sung by Bindumalini Narayanaswamy, has gone viral. “Like the seven swaras the bullets have sliced the heart they have become a song for this moment… Still, carrying this pain in our hearts come, bring love.“

Says Sagar: “At the protest rally, I was talking to some youngsters. One of them, a boy, who didn’t know me, said, `What poetry are you talking about? If you write, you should write like that poem tribute to Gauri that has gone viral. That is real poetry.’ It shocked me. That poem is no longer mine, it has become theirs. I just went back quietly to my seat.“

“In the end, as they pierced through her heart the bullets never knew That they were culling the voice of freedom; And once again, humanity was the loser,“ says Ajith S Pillai’s poem. And this theme runs across poems, most of which directly addresses Gauri as though she is a friend known to all of them.

“Has it rained enough for all of her blood to be washed away? Have the clouds beaten their chests enough with thunder, lightning and the floodgate of tears… Has enough wind blown to put out the candles on street corners, the rage burning within our hearts?“ asks Daniel Sukumar’s poem that has been shared across WhatsApp groups, with no one knowing who the poet is.

Sukumar told ET Magazine: “This poem was more like an outburst. I felt as though a powerful voice against atrocities was snatched away from us. To me, as a poet, that was both a warning and an invitation. Maybe I’ll get a bullet too. But if I don’t do this, I might not have any purpose as a poet.“

Writer and dancer Poorna Swami has used “Knock, knock“ jokes to chilling effect. “Knock, knock… Who’s there? Bullet Bullet who? Bullet and three more inside you.“ At another point, in a reference to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, she says: “A moving forest once felled a tyrant Knock, knock on the tyrant’s door Knock, knock the forest is coming It’s coming, it’s coming Like your news always came In unwavering blows.“

“Gauri’s murder specifically revealed something to me -more than ever before, people from different class, religions, castes and regions are making themselves heard. The poem is also for something beyond Gauri for the questions she would have asked of our various governments after a death like hers,“ says Swami.

Many poets made the point that a defenceless woman was killed without her being given a chance to say anything at all.“What an act of bravery To shoot a woman alone at home! What an act of utter foolishness To mute a firebrand woman,“ writes poet Meenakshi M Singh on Women’s Web, predicting the rise of women power.

Attack on freedom is another running theme in the Gauri poems, like this one by theatreperson Poile Sengupta: “They hated sharing my sky To read my dictionary of beliefs They murdered my thoughts My words, They exterminated me. Somewhere they must be laughing now At their victory Toasting my death… Do they think they have silenced forever All who like me believe In the gentle rationale of rain?“ Two micropoems, one in English by Jins Thomas and another in Kannada by Chand Pasha, better known as Kavichandra, capture the spirit several people have expressed on social media. Says Thomas: “Mourn for her no more She was never afraid to die! Mourn for her no more Grow a Gauri in you! Grow a Gauri in your children!“ Kavichandra says: “The ones who killed her didn’t know this won’t be a single column news when an inchlong bullet hit the heart of the wind the blood that flowed out didn’t know a new chapter of history would begin.“

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Music- The resilient art of dissent



These past few days, I have been on a Faiz Ahmed Faiz poetry trip. It all started after a few friends posted the legendary Pakistani poet’s work on Facebook following the Gauri Lankesh murder. “We need someone like Faiz,” said one comment. And the song regularly posted was his iconic and revolutionary Hum dekhenge, rendered by the brilliant Iqbal Bano.

Personally, I have experienced Faiz’s poetry only through song. I can’t read Urdu. Having grown up in a different cultural environment, I still find it difficult to understand half of what he tried to convey. Yet, he’s been an all-time idol.

Interestingly, there was this song I heard back in 1983 as a 20-year-old. I loved it immensely but it took me three years to figure it was written by Faiz. The meaning came later but Mehdi Hassan’s ‘Gulon mein rang bhare’remains a favourite even today.

The actual Faiz journey began in 1986 when a friend played the melodious Nayyara Noor. Songs like ‘Hum ke thehre ajnabi’, Tum mere paas raho and ‘Intesaab’ just grabbed me with their power. It went on. Bano’s ‘Hum dekhenge’and Dasht-e-tanhai. Akhtar’s ‘Aaye kuchh abr’ and Donon jahaan teri mohabbat mein haar ke’.

Farida Khanum’s ‘Yaad-e-ghazaal-e-chashma’. Noor Jehan‘s ‘Mujhse pehli si mohabbat’ and ‘Tum aaye ho na shab-e-intezaar guzari hai’.

The list continued. Ghulam Ali, Abida Parveen, Pankaj Udhas, Zehra Nigah, Radhika Chopra. Besides the songs, so did the quest for their meanings.

Faiz used a lot of high-flown Urdu terms and metaphors with multiple interpretations. He would strike at governments, talk about global development or write eulogies on romantic minds. That was his oeuvre, style and genius. For some years, I found translations in books but today you get practically everything online. It’s still a journey and my attempt at a personal thesis.

Faiz was Faiz. But to come back to the point, why were so many remembering him after the Lankesh incident? Probably because both were symbols of freedom and expression. Protest has always been a form of writing, and Bob Dylan was the supreme Western songwriter in this genre. His songs were posted too.

Here I come to the personal angle. I am not a poet and I know it. I am a nobody. But after listening to so much Faiz and a bit of Dylan for a few days, I made my first attempt at writing verse. Understandably, it’s an amateur debut. It’s titled, ‘So What If I Think Freely?’.

My mind has a heart, my tongue has a soul;

My voice comes through my navel, my art is my only goal

I paint through my eyes, I dance through my brain;

Write poetry through my ears, nothing ever goes in vain

I feel I am extremely creative, it’s just a gift and blessing;

I shoot films with my arms, no matter what the cast is dressing

And then I am abruptly stopped, disbelievers call me a stink;

Don’t blame their brains at all, but I have the freedom to think

Oh if I live in another world, devoid of hatred and greed;

All of us artistes can unite, and be proud of our common creed

Well, amateur or otherwise, it was simply inspired by music and poetry of protest.

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